Scripture: Lectionary 321: II Samuel 11:1-4.5-10.13-17. Psalm 51:3-4.5-126.96.36.199. Mark 4:26-34
Thursday’s Readings (Ed. Note: The readings at the USCCB and in the liturgy today are for the feast of the Memorial of Saint Timothy and Saint Titus, Bishops.)
Mark hands on two more of the earliest parables of Jesus which basically have the same message. We keep in mind the parable of the Sower as we read these two parables. The symbol of seeds or seed being sown continues with some new insights for our meditation. In all of the parables the message of Jesus is given to us, but now they are given in a positive perspective that there are listeners who hear the messages of Jesus and understand them unlike the earlier situation of some who did not probe and ponder them and thus did not understand. As a result they did not change and transform themselves for they were not open to them with listening hearts.
Mark is also a theologian besides being an evangelist. He now gives us his understanding of the positive response: “By means of many such parables he (Jesus) taught them the message in a way they could understand.” (Mark 4: 33-34).
Mark is diligent in giving us the details of what was known about the growing development of the seed(s) that are mentioned. This is another characteristic of Mark, namely, to have thick description and detailed information about Jesus and his sayings and teachings. We are being prepared for the other Gospels which in Matthew and Luke will have many more parables which are developed in the context and content of their own theology based on the words and deeds of Jesus. What we learn from Mark will be of great value in understanding the two other Synoptics (Matthew and Luke).
The listeners in Galilee were more farmers than proletariats. They would be attracted by the parables that speak about what they know and lead to a comparison with the kingdom or realm of God. The parables of sowing and reaping also center on the community and its surprising growth. There is in the theology of their presentation what we call “ecclesiology” ( study of the Church).
It is fascinating to just read how the seed develops in Mark: the seed, its blade, its dependence on the earth, then the ear, and then the full grain, and its fruit. The harvest is the final phase of this journey through the life of a seed planted on the hills of Galilee. We can sense the fresh spring of Galilee in these homey and heavenly comparisons. Mark has only six parables; Matthew and Luke have many more. Only John will not have what we call parables. He will use another genre peculiar to his own theology.
Mark’s seed parables are meant to teach us about the reign of God and how we too must grow and be transformed into the likeness of the seed (or the likeness of Christ). We all begin to develop spiritually secretly and silently then a further stage of growth enables us to reflect on our spiritual life and to develop it further.
The mustard seed is one of the simplest of the parables. From small beginnings to a large tree or bush. So, too, did the little gatherings of Christians in Mark’s time blossom into the faith communities of the Gospels and of Paul’s writings and pastoral care.
Finally, Mark gives us a glimpse of his eschatology (or the coming of the kingdom). “It is inevitable; therefore there is no need for discouragement or impatience regarding its coming. Again the kingdom is enough of a present reality to be described in terms of a growing seed, though God is clearly the one who makes it grow.” Amen. (Daniel Harrington, S.J.)